The one gift Charly gets out of becoming Brainiac is sex. In a lengthy montage resembling a retro TV commercial, he and his special-ed teacher (Claire Bloom, madonna with eternal Mona Lisa smile) romp through an Edenic outdoors, their embraces hallowed by sunlight glinting through leaves, moonlight glinting on water, and sappy Ravi Shankar music. (Stylistic clichés also include embarrassing outbreaks of split screens and multiple small screens within the frame, notably when rebellious Charly turns biker.) Robertson's performance is well-meaning but hokey. Still, in the penultimate moments when Charly begins to slide back into retardation, the actor achieves a genuine tragic gravity, and he became a surprise Oscar winner for his pains. --Kathleen Murphy
The 1968 movie version, of course, opens up the story and gets away from the first-person perspective that made "Flowers for Algernon" so compelling. To add insult to injury, there is now a romance between Charly with a character named Alice Kinian (Claire Bloom). Of course, this changes the whole dynamic of the film, at the cost of the poignancy of Charly's relationship with Algernon. As the title character Cliff Robertson won the Oscar and clearly the problem is not with his performance but rather with Stirling Silliphant's screenplay. Still, to be fair, any film adaptation of the fragile original story was going to lose what made it so great.
Consequently, this is one of those films that you will enjoy more if you have not read "Flowers for Algernon." Of course, if you have not read either the short story or the novel, you should. At least this was an intelligence "science fiction" film for its day, certainly a more human story than other films of that era, such as "2001: A Space Odyssey."